LEEK v STAFFORD, MATCH REPORT
The Moorlanders won their 14th consecutive league match on Saturday at EsterChem Park defeating Stafford and scoring 7 tries with the bonus point for tries coming in the 1st half.
The win kept Leek at the head of the table but both Stourbridge Lions and Camp Hill won and so with 2 games to go, it is still a wide open title race.
The Leek squad is pretty stable currently and it fielded all but one of the starting XV from last week. The exception was on the right wing where Elliot Anderson came in for Tom Scragg, allowing a 1st team debut on the bench for Will Graham.
On a glorious afternoon for rugby, Leek started strongly eliciting penalties and playing with pace. On 7 minutes came the first try after Gary McDermott grubber kicked through from a scrum won on Stafford's 22. Nick Palmer was on hand to touch down as the ball reached the try line. McDermott converted and Leek were 7-0 up.
2 minutes later and Stafford had the chance to reduce arrears for an offside offence but the attempt went wide and then on 12 minutes, the flanker was yellow carded for a high tackle.
Then on 15 minutes, a scrum for Leek on the left of the Stafford 22 had the backs running a neat move and with Sam Hunt adding his presence, the overlap was created for Elliot Anderson to score Leek's 2nd try. The conversion missed but it was 12-0.
On 20 minutes, came the move of the match.
A Stafford clearance kick reached the arms of full back Sam Hunt on his 10 metre line. His pass to man of the match Matt Leadingham then had the left wing weaving his way past 5 defenders to set up a quick ruck from which Nick Palmer, Elliot Anderson and finally Ollie Drew combined to put Gary McDermott in under the posts for the 3rd try. He converted and Leek led 19-0 on 22 minutes.
Stafford then steadied the ship to contain Leek as they won ball and made good use of possession without threatening until the 37th minute when after winning their own lineout on their own 22, the clearance kick was charged down by Luke Hardern and the big lock picked up and crashed over for Leek's 4th try. McDermott converted to lift Leek to 26-0 as the half closed with Stafford still trying to make progress and working hard to get back into the game.
At the half, Will Graham came on for his debut on the right wing but it was Stafford scoring first on 55 minutes. Leek were attacking on the Stafford 22 on the left when an interception pass was thrown. The Stafford right wing then kicked ahead and the ball bounced to the Leek 5 metre line. Nick Palmer cleared but the ball was collected by the Stafford backs and a simple combination had the centre scoring a deserved try for the visitors. The conversion failed but at 26-5, Leek needed to reassert as Stafford threatened.
From the kick off, Leek won the ball and ran in multiple phases before Luke Hardern was bravely tackled in the Stafford 22 by the fly half. A lengthy stoppage ensued as he was checked and thankfully he walked off. Several penalties then came Leek's way as Stafford had to reorganise and following a ruck, the Stafford 8 was yellow carded. A couple of lineouts later and Ed Cheadle was at the back of a driving maul to score Leek's 5th try on 64 minutes. The conversion missed from the right hand touchline. 31-5.
Will Graham nearly got on the score sheet on 70 minutes after a strong run but 2 minutes later from another lineout catch and drive, Ad Smith scored Leek's 6th try. McDermott converted and it was 38-5.
Stafford, to their credit, came back and scored their 2nd try on 75 minutes after a clever chip and catch and then support play for a fine try by the posts. The conversion was good to make the score 38-12.
With a minute to go, a Stafford scrum in their own 22 led to an interception by Nick Palmer who rounded the last defender to score by the posts. McDermott converted to end the scoring at 45-12.
It had been a good contest and although Stafford conceded 7 tries, the whole squad battled hard and never gave up but the defeat sees them drop into 11th place after wins for Old Yards at Old Salts and Newcastle at home to Shrewsbury.
Stafford's crunch game will be against Newcastle on Saturday.
Stourbridge Lions had to win at Kidderminster and they duly did so with a 18-20 victory to maintain 2nd place.
Camp Hill beat Tamworth 41-8 to keep the pressure on the top 2 and it could not be closer in the run in now.
Leek has 84 points, The Lions have 82 points and Camp Hill have 80 points.
This Saturday will see the defining game in the league this season to date when Leek travel to Stourbridge for what promises to be a fantastic encounter. With Camp Hill visiting Veseyans, nothing but victory for all 3 is good enough. Bonus points and points difference could all play their part in this fascinating end to the season.
Kick off is at 3pm at Stourbridge. The team coach will depart the club at 11-45. Anyone travelling on the bus with the players, please arrive by 1130.
Please come down and support the squad in this important clash.
Author John McDermott